By Tika Bujiashvili
Petra Fortress is situated in Tsikhisdziri, 7 km away from Kobuleti to Batumi. The fortress used to be a historical town of Egrisi Kingdom. But, today there are only some remains there. Due to its advantageous military and strategic as well as trade and economic location Emperor Justinian of Byzantine decided to build a town on that land of Lazika in the 6th century (535). A narrow road connected western Georgia to Byzantine and further Iran and Armenia was cut along the shore. Petra controlled all marine navigation from Byzantine to East. Byzantine and Iran were interested in owing Petra since their political and economic expansion was directly depended on the regional control. That was the real reason of the Byzantine-Persian War in the 6th century. Petra kept its importance even later. It was considered as undefeatable fortress. Its acropolis was situated on a cliff hill along the shore. Its landside was protected with strong fence as rocky relief (the relief originated its Greek name “Petra” – rock, stone).
The word “Petra” in Greek means “rock.” In the Georgian historical sources it was still known as “Kadzhi fortress”. Byzantine historian Procopius of Caesarea wrote: “next to Pontius is Lasike, where the city of Petra is situated. The city was built by Emperor Justinian in my time. ”
The Length of the fortress remains is 200 m, width – 100 m. Fortress is situated on two hills. Citadel occupies 2 hectares. Wall passes through mountainous terrain. Fortress had tight doors, which were closed for two deadbolts. At present, 7 meter – double wall and several massive towers are saved.
Petra fortress has undergone many wars. In 540-550 years, under the walls of it two outposts of civilization fought – the Persian and the Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian and the king Khosrow. Researchers also believe that not once mentioned “Kadzhi Fortress” by Shota Rustaveli in his immortal poem “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” – is the fortress of Petra – Tsikhisdziri.
It is believed that in the 11th–14th centuries, a small church of St. John Baptist was built on the ground of the fortress, which was destroyed in the time of Russo-Turkish war, in the years 1877–1878. Today there are just ruins.
Archaeological excavations have not been done here since 1988. Archeologists started working here in July this year. During the last excavations remains of a three-aisled basilica and Turkish baths are found, which is also thought to be exploded during the Russo-Turkish war.
Later, early in the XIXc a Lemonarium was built on Petra fortress, which also caused collapsing the walls. Further more, It is said that stones of the fortress were used to build the Lemonarium…
At the same time rehabilitation works of eastern walls of Petra fortress are being done. Cultural Heritage Preservation Agency of Ajara is going to build paths, exhibition buildings, banners and other visual materials.